The Swedish winter is unreliable in many places. One day deep snow, the next day bare ground. We asked a real winter cycling expert to tell him how he is doing to cope with his work day when the cold comes. And Owen Laws at MOVEBYBiKE Umeå is not anyone, we are talking about a person who can deliver a piano - by bicycle…
Do you change your driving style in the winter?
If you are lucky enough to live in a city that is trying to be a winter cyclist, this is a big advantage. But it can still be good with stud tires at least in the front during the worst slipping period. Be sure to cycle a bit slower and be careful in the curves so it should go well. Wear a helmet if it feels safe, but otherwise adjust the speed.
The walking and cycling paths are narrower when it has been snowing, so you have to drive a little more carefully when you meet people. The biggest problem is snow banks and tracks, especially where the bicycle passengers meet the street, then you have to slow in so as not to destroy the wheels in the tracks.
What else do you need to think about in order to be able to ride a bike in the winter?
Actually there is not much difference between cycling in summer and winter - for the most part! It takes a little longer in the winter than otherwise, partly because of the tire tires I have on all three wheels. You get to dress warmer and sometimes you even have to wear rain pants when it is rainy. The hardest thing is to keep your fingers and toes warm when it's really cold. When I work, I have Hestra leather ski gloves with removable inner liner and thin wool liners on my hands that I cut off my thumbs and forefinger to be able to write on the phone which is an important working tool. Maybe I get hand warmers that sit on the handlebars, or electrically heated gloves and soles for the shoes.
Any other special tricks?
This year me and my partner have started with bike covers when the bike is out overnight, you get started much faster then. Among other things, it is much less likely that the lock has frozen. Merino wool is perfect as underwear, and a jacket with the ability to regulate ventilation. I cycle all day in my company MOVEBYBiKE Umeå and then I always have two layers different (depending on how cold it is) merino wool sweaters and a Houdini Power Houdie and either a waterproof Houdini Ascent jacket if there is a risk of rain or many minus degrees, or a lighter Houdini jacket with plenty of ventilation when it is dry outside and max a few minus degrees.
When I ride in private, it is good enough with a lighter jacket with good ventilation. Both me and my partner love Houdini Dunfri, which is both very water resistant and light as a spring. Ear cuffs can be good to wear under the wool top.
Tell us about MOVEBYBiKE, what are you doing?
We are a bicycle shop. We run bids and transports for both companies and individuals. Just like a regular haulage company, bicycle lorries take many different kinds of regular and temporary assignments. We run everything from clean bids to flowers (even in winter), catering and groceries, print pickups / deliveries, apartment and office relocations, distribution / store deliveries. The big difference compared to bike messenger is that MOVEBYBiKE can take much bigger stuff, up to 300 kilos and it is possible to load a europall in the bike.
What kind of customers do you have?
Last summer was our first summer in Umeå. We drove a lot of vegetables, and partly we got full loads for a tavern (Gotthard's tavern) with our own cultivation. And one evening a week, we drove out vegetables to people's homes for another grower (Marstorp's food). We have exported mobile phones and accessories to a large player (Stjärnafyrkant) and there will be a lot of catering and bread deliveries for a café / bakery (Kulturbageriet, and Tonka (catering only)). We run flower bouquets (for Linnaeus and Grankvist) and collect / export printed items and profile items for some advertising companies (among others Green Print).
We actually have quite a few customers with a green profile, which feels very good. (Green Press, Linnaeus and Grankvist, Gotthard's tavern, Kulturbageriet, Marstorp's food, Älvtåets echocrog). We have not had so many private customers yet, but have managed to move on a couple of couches and storage contents.
Do you notice in your business that the climate issue is important for Swedish households and companies?
Hard to answer that question right now. Most of our customers use us because it is a sustainable solution, but also because it is the best solution. One might think that if the climate issue was a priority, we would be inundated by customers, and it is not now. But it's about selling yourself too, so people know you exist, and it's only been over a year so far. Ask again in a year!
How much do you need to exercise physically to work with bicycle transport?
Nothing. If you have normal physics then just start. Cycling is among the best public health measures available, so you get your workout in the job so to speak. Our cargo bike has electric assist so you don't have to drive hard evenly. I myself have asthma, but it goes well anyway. I usually say that all the great athletes have asthma, and that's no obstacle to them.
MOVEBYBiKE is located in Malmö, Stockholm, Lund, Umeå, Uppsala and Gothenburg.
Born: 1960 in the United States
Family: Sambo, two adult sons
Background: Organizer within the peace and solidarity movement during the university studies, former municipal and county council politicians for MP.
today: Driver MOVEBYBiKE Umeå, wants to make Umeå a cycling city where most of the freight transport takes place by cargo bike and MOVEBYBiKE is the biggest player.
Photo: The picture at the top, Ymas Jansson, other pictures Owen Laws